Russia's anti-doping agency said on Wednesday that a top official's remarks were "mutilated and quoted out of context" in reports that the state had for the first time acknowledged the existence of a widespread Olympic doping operation.
The New York Times attributed the admission to Anna Antseliovich, acting director general of the anti-doping agency RUSADA. In a report published Tuesday, the Times says Antseliovich confessed to a vast "institutional conspiracy" that implicated scores of Russian athletes for taking performance-enhancing drugs. However, the doping scheme did not involve the government's top officials, she told the Times.
The anti-doping agency responded on Wednesday with a statement that questioned the credibility of the Times reporter, who it says "quoted these words out of context and created an impression that the administration of RUSADA acknowledges the existence of an institutional scheme covering the doping [usage] in Russia."
The pushback from Russia comes just weeks after the World Anti-Doping Agency released a bombshell report detailing how more than 1,000 athletes across at least 30 sports were tangled in a state-sponsored doping scheme orchestrated between 2011 and 2015.
Canadian law professor Richard McLaren, lead investigator in the report, concluded in early December that Russian authorities had tampered with urine samples to conceal athletes' use of banned substances. It was a "cover-up of an unprecedented scale," McLaren said of his findings.
Revelations of a widespread doping program has accelerated scrutiny into top Russian competitors who dominated in past Olympic games. The International Olympic Committee has launched disciplinary proceedings against 28 Russian athletes who competed in the 2014 Winter Games hosted in Sochi, Russia. Already, 27 Russian athletes have faced penalties for false reporting in the 2012 London Games and 2008 Beijing Games.
The latest doping allegations cast a shadow over the 2016 Summer Olympics held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Still, 271 out of Russia's 389 athletes were allowed to compete.
For years, Russian officials have insisted that allegations of a state-sponsored doping scheme are baseless. While the Kremlin said it is currently investigating the validity of the Times report and whether Antseliovich's words were twisted in any way, officials firmly rejected any indication of a state-sponsored doping program.
"We categorically deny that," Russian Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday.